VENTURA -- With just under two minutes to play in Sunday afternoon’s CCCAA Women’s Basketball Championship game, Trinity Washington jumped in front of a lazy inbounds pass under the Mt. San Jacinto basket, just missing a steal as she deflected the ball out of bounds.

The outcome of Merced College’s 81-52 defeat at the hands of Eagles had long been decided after a three-point third quarter all but brought the Blue Devils’ championship hopes to an end. It didn’t prevent Washington and company from hustling and grinding until the very end.

That unrelenting effort was Merced College’s defining characteristic as the Devils became the darlings of the state tournament, winning over Southern California fans and the SoCal College Sports announcers that streamed every game.

Merced wasn’t at its best against a very good Mt. San Jacinto team and ultimately fell short of its state-title goal, but the ugly loss in no way diminishes the greatest season in school history. Of the 114 California Community Colleges, 93 field women’s basketball teams. The Devils advanced further than 91 of them, making the first title game in program history.

Washington closed out her record-setting career (single-season steals and assist leader) with 15 points while fellow sophomore Tahajeray McMahan added a team-high 16. Both were named to the all-tournament team. Devils coach Allen Huddleston joined in on the accolades, getting named the CCCWBCA North Coach of the Year.

Merced College finished up the season 28-6 overall with a co-Central Valley Conference championship, the No. 1 ranking in Northern California and the No. 2 ranking in the state.